Making Speeches for the Harry Potter Festival - Part 2 of ?

You know when you start a project that's somewhat similar to one you've done before, and then it ends up being a bit more complex than you first imagined? That's what we're into here.

I've given hundreds of speeches on many different subjects. In the last month or so I've given speeches on resentment as the most destructive emotion, analyzing the philosophical roots of rock lyrics, how my family originated as Leprechauns, how I raised a dragon egg when I was a kid, the importance of comic books as an art form, and what a virtuous human being is. I've had people come up to me after every one of those speeches and tell me how much they liked it and how much it made them think, because I seem to have a unique view on most things. Next week I'm giving a speech titled "Alligator Wrestling and the Meaning of Life". But these Harry Potter speeches are a... challenge.

I have 2 things that are solid. I have 3, or 4, or 5 things that still have to be worked out. I have a good background for my career.

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Jeffrey Alexander Martin
Visiting Lecturer - Sparta Institute for the Study of Muggles
Current Assistant Professor of Muggle Studies - Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Former Professor of Muggle Studies - Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

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I have a good speech about the many uses of the rubber duck.

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1. My first accidental encounter with a rubber duck as a child.
2. Reading Arthur Weasley's paper on "The Many Uses of the Rubber Duck" while in school at Ilvermorny.
3. A teenage adventure to try to observe a rubber duck in action. (factory and/or family)
4. What the research has revealed: humor, entertainment, child training in animal interaction, water transportation, distraction, possible growth into hunting decoys, relation to the rubber chicken, play as life preparation.
5. Questions fielded from the class. (Possibly hundreds of people from a large crowd in front of the main stage.)
6. Homework assignments.

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I have to work out three more speeches. Here's the problem.

I am pretending to be a wizard professor speaking to a class of witches and wizards about muggles. But, I'm actually a muggle speaking to a crowd of muggles about muggles. That's a problem because what the imaginary witches and wizards would find interesting is going to be boring to the real muggles standing in front of me.

I've been drumming my mind on this idea for the last two months. For instance, it would be cool to do a speech about how planes stay aloft because Arthur Weasley was interested in that question. Witches and wizards would find that interesting because it would be a mind-blowing concept to them about something completely new. For muggles, everyone already knows that the air moves faster over the top of the wing than the bottom creating an upward pulling force on the curved wing. It's boring, heard it before and I didn't like it when they were forcing me to sit through boring classes in school. Outside of school it's interesting because my own interest naturally leads me to study what's in my current zone of proximal development. (But that's a whole other article about why the government-run education field is jacked.)

A straight take on the subject won't work, but that doesn't mean you just give up, you pivot. I'm guessing a lot of people would suggest making it funny, something like a standup comedy routine. That's a bad suggestion for two reasons. One, I'm not particularly skilled at preparing original jokes, only professional comedians are. Two, professional comedians will work on routines for months and years to develop a routine that's good. Jerry Seinfeld, the most successful comedian of all time, figures he gets about 20 good jokes out of every 500 that he writes. Also, he doesn't know which ones they are. You have to go try them in front of audiences. You develop good material by bombing and adjusting, getting a smile and adjusting, getting a giggle and adjusting, getting a laugh and then putting it in your paid routine. This won't work for me because there isn't a good place to try this Harry Potter role-playing material out in.

Just because that won't work we don't give up, we pivot. Stories are great. I'm good at stories. I can speak on the same general subject of planes and weave an interesting story around it. Let's say as a professor I was researching muggle transportation systems. I decided to take a plane ride to somewhere to see what it was like, for research. We go through the crazy process of security checks, waiting in lines, delays, how it doesn't seem safe, being offered peanuts, being cramped, having to pay for a movie, a shaky landing, having to find my luggage, etc. This part would probably naturally come out somewhat funny, great. Depending on how the details work out I could then dive into the history of flight and talk about people attaching wings to their arms and flapping while jumping off of barns, gliders, how bicycle mechanics made planes, and the current industry. It might be okay, it probably would be okay. I don't want to do it, too boring.

After we've pivoted around the same idea a few times, we give up. Knowing when to stick and when to quit is an art. I did this with a few different ideas, namely the mail system and dishwashers. It wasn't working.

I do have two original ideas that I still think are worth pursuing, the muggle duel and something about dragons. I have to do something about dragons.

For dragons I think I could simply relate incidents from history. A collection of stories with the theme of muggle encounters with dragons. I think that might end up turning out great actually. (I recently found a drawing that I entered in the Ionia Free Fair when I was twelve. It won a blue ribbon. It was of a dragon.) I will work out those details in a later article.

The muggle duel idea is the most logistically challenging, but has the potential to be the most entertaining. It's challenging because it would be so much more fun to do demonstrations. That means that I'll bring two people up from the audience and have them go through fist fighting, wrestling, knife fighting, stick fighting, sword fighting, and pistol fighting. It would be great. I would work it out with my helpers beforehand obviously. And, we'll simply cover some history with some odd observations. For instance, there was a tribe somewhere that didn't do a real fight. One person would hit the other on the top of the head with a stick. Then they would reverse roles. They would alternate until one gave up or passed out. That would be funny. Or, the Eskimos had singing duels. That's odd and could be fun, and funny. Apparently several different tribes around the world had that tradition.

See, it's coming together. I have my personal fictional background. I have a solid speech about the many uses of the rubber duck. I have a speech that will definitely work about muggle encounters with dragons. And, I have a potential speech about muggle duels. One more good idea.

This came to me earlier today when I was buying groceries: "The Great Gnome Conspiracy of ....". I don't know what it's going to be about, but it's a good name. The writer R. L. Stine often comes up with a good title and then figures out a story based on it.

It needs a year, so let's look at Google Ngrams. That allows us to search a word and see the history of it occurring in books. Let's search gnome. "gnome" first appeared in a book in 1753. Its use has had some ups and downs, but overall the trend has been slightly up over time. There were some big ups and downs until 1800, maybe we use that.

"The Great Gnome Conspiracy of the 18th Century". It sounds like a wizarding class about muggles. That's a good sign.

Here's something. In 1794 a book was published titled "A Complete Edition of the Poets of Great Britain. Volume the Eighth. Containing Pope, Gay, Pattifon, Hammond, Savage, Hill, Tickell, Somervile, Broome, Pitt & Blair."

Gnome is used four times in this book. In Canto IV of "The Rape of the Lock" by Alexander Pope, this is the selection that I like.

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Swift on his footy pinions flits the gnome,
And in a vapour reach'd the difmal dome.

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(They often used "f" instead of "s" at that time in printing presses.)

There are now a ton of ways you could go with this speech, probably an unlimited number of options. Here are some that I'll think about. Maybe Pope was a wizard that thought the secrets of magic shouldn't be secret. Maybe Pope was a muggle with a wizard friend who leaked a secret to him. Maybe it wasn't a big deal until muggles started trying to catch gnomes for some reason. Maybe some rich people liked playing with them in their garden games, as royals are want to do. Maybe muggles tried to kill off the gnomes. Maybe gnomes weren't kept a secret until then because they were good at staying hidden. But, then when people realized that they were good at sneaking around they tried to catch them and train them to be thieves and spies. This got out of hand. Maybe the queen was robbed or something. Then, a decision was made.

It was decided that gnomes should be kept secret from muggles. They tried to do this through various means, but it wasn't fully working because the proverbial cat was out of the bag. Then, in whatever year, someone came up with the idea to hide gnomes in plain sight. The wizarding community hid gnomes in stories and myths. This mostly did the trick, but there were still a few problems later. I could go through an incident in here somewhere to make it concrete and engaging. Later, it was realized that the fake garden gnome could be invented and promoted and then everyone would think the idea of real gnomes would be ridiculous. That's a pretty good overall idea. Maybe I could include a local political meeting near the beginning of this whole ordeal where the different sides were presented. Maybe a witch became rich and famous for inventing the fake garden gnome. Ideas.

Alright, good stuff. Now, we have our good ideas: "Further Research on the Many Uses of the Rubber Duck", "The History of Muggle Encounters with Dragons", "The History of the Muggle Duel", and "The Great Gnome Conspiracy of the 18th and 19th Centuries".

I will work out the details of the three new ideas in further articles.

See how I can create something from nothing? It's because I'm a wizard.

Here's more Harry Potter:


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